It has been six months since senior marketing and management major Ryan Johnson’s drivers’ side mirror casing was demolished in what he claims was a hit-and-run incident in Seton Hall’s Xavier Hall parking lot.
“The parking spaces are just ridiculously small,” Johnson said, sitting at a rickety table in The Cove.
Parking on Seton Hall’s campus has long been a subject of critique among the student body, with many clamoring for lower prices, increased space sizes and more availability – a difficult balancing act for a campus with only 58 acres.
But Johnson’s car troubles were just one in a sea of parking incidents according to an investigation by The Setonian.
“Everyone is complaining about their cars getting scraped,” Johnson said, noting the most common accident occurrences he’s heard.
His anecdotes were reflected in a November 2019 poll conducted by The Setonian which found that 55% of students have experienced some degree of car damage in Seton Hall’s parking lots – 75% of which were claimed to be hit-and-run incidents similar to Johnson’s claim.
Last year, SGA President Rishi Shah made increasing parking space sizes a core tenant of his campaign with an Instagram advertisement that showcased a student having difficulty fitting a vehicle into a Xavier Hall parking spot. It was a message that resonated with voters as Shah glided into a second term. But according to The Setonian’s poll, student disdain for university parking remains sky high.
When asked to rank how they felt about parking space sizes, 80% of students who use Seton Hall parking said that they were dissatisfied.
Since the incident back in August, Johnson has since had his mirror fixed for a small fee which he ultimately paid out of pocket, but now he avoids parking in the Xavier Hall lot, opting instead to now park behind Turrell, where he is a resident assistant.
“I think, again, the biggest contributor to that has to be how small these spaces are,” he said of the incidents. “It’s very difficult to park.”
According to the South Orange Municipal Code, parking spaces that require permits – such as the ones on Seton Hall’s campus – must be 8.5 feet wide by 18 feet long.
But according to John Signorello, Seton Hall’s Associate Vice President for Facilities Engineering, the parking stalls in the Duffy, Xavier and Complex lots range in size from 8 feet by 16.5 feet to 8 feet by 18 feet, making the spots smaller than the current code standards.
Signorello noted, though, that because the parking spaces were approved and built accordingly in 1986, the spaces are grandfathered and therefore not required to meet the current code standards, but the spots in the parking deck are in accordance with Village ordinances.
The school has explored the possibility of expanding the spaces in the Duffy, Xavier, and Complex parking lots and so far has found that expanding the spaces to be 9 feet wide would eliminate approximately 92 spaces from the campus, raising a separate issue altogether. In the same November 2019 Setonian poll, 77% of students said that they were dissatisfied with the amount of parking available on campus.
For Johnson, he sees how expanding the sizes of parking spots could be a problematic solution for a campus that’s already stretched for space with only 2,313 general use spaces and 4,861 permitted parkers – roughly 2,400 of which are residents and commuter students.
“I do think that reducing the parking spaces would be problematic in terms of availability, but I think the question comes into play of other alternatives that [the University] can do to solve it,” Johnson noted, floating the idea of installing security cameras in the lots.
“That way if a car does get hit and someone drives off, we can go back into the records and see who did it that way someone can be held responsible,” he said.
As a response to the student disaffection surrounding parking, President Rishi Shah announced in November that following a town hall held alongside university officials the SGA Executive Board and Senate would form a working group to address, in part, parking issues on campus, but what solutions the group plans to offer remains to be seen by the university community.
In addition to the small space sizes, many students have voiced extreme dissatisfaction with the high cost of parking, as well. According to Parking Services, an academic year parking pass for a commuter at Seton Hall costs $315, up from $306 in the 2017-18 year. 91% of students said that they were dissatisfied with parking.
SGA Senator and Chair of the Student Life Committee Christine Connelly is attempting to take the issue head on by spearheading an initiative within the committee to research parking prices and compare them to other schools. She told The Setonian back in October that she hopes the research could inspire the school to lower prices.
“I have heard on many occasions about the prices of the parking permits [being] a problem,” Connelly said. “I personally do not commute so I do not understand this issue, but many of my friends, and the Seton Hall population, commute and have grievances regarding the prices.”
Additionally, SGA has continued meeting with university administrators
Meanwhile, though, students like Johnson are questioning whether or not the price of parking is justifiable given the risks that come with it.
“I was talking to one of my friends from Montclair and she pays less than half of that to park on their campus,” he said. “Not only do they have regular sized parking spaces, but they have parking all over the place. It makes me not want to pay for it. I don’t agree with the price at all.”
For the 2019-2020 academic year, a commuter parking pass went for $315. Academic resident passes clocked in $45 at $359.
Parking Services Manager Ann Szipszky didn’t respond to requests to comment for this article but said back in October that prices for parking were adjusted for the 2019-2020 academic year and are determined by the University Cabinet. To her knowledge, there were not any discussions at this time within Parking Services or at the University Cabinet regarding lowering prices of parking.
As for Johnson, he remains defiant about his stance on parking.
“It definitely lessened my experience, because I know a lot of people have been complaining about the parking spaces and nothing has been done,” he said. “It makes you wonder about the University’s priorities.”
Nicholas Kerr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @NickKerr99.